clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Changes the New Jersey Devils Could Make Before Game 2

There were a number of New Jersey Devils players who had mediocre to bad games on Tuesday night. Today we look at what the team could do to shake things up if they desire to.

NHL: Stanley Cup Playoffs-New York Rangers at New Jersey Devils Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

After Tuesday night’s Game 1 drubbing, there’s no shortage of reactions regarding the play of the New Jersey Devils. Sure, the reactions range from logical to absurd with everything in between, but dropping a series opening rivalry game at home tends to do that. The team overall wasn’t great, the powerplay was beyond inept and goaltending was “meh” at best. While Game 2 comes soon enough this evening to hopefully assuage the doom and gloom, it also gives some time to reflect.

There’s a number of Devils players that were healthy scratches (or sitting on the bench backing up) in Game 1 that maybe get an opportunity in Game 2. Now granted the coaching staff may not see it that way; we could get an identical lineup later today, with the staff believing these are the 20 players that give us the best chance to win. With what I watched on Monday, I don’t see it that way. I think there are at least a couple of changes the Devils can make in terms of who’s playing (or at the very least, who’s playing where) to swing Game 2 in their favor.

Luke Hughes Over Ryan Graves or Jonas Siegenthaler

I don’t think any left-handed defender on the Devils played well on Tuesday with the exception of Kevin Bahl who didn’t look out of place albeit in limited minutes. The Devils obviously believe in Hughes’ potential and ability; if they didn’t think he stood a chance in the NHL, they could’ve had him sign an ATO with Utica for their playoff run. While Hughes has less NHL experience than anyone else currently on the roster, could he honestly look/be more out of place than either Graves or Siegenthaler were on Tuesday?

If anyone comes out, I think Graves makes more sense; Siegenthaler looked just as lost on the ice, but moving him to play with John Marino instead of Dougie Hamilton could help things. If that were the choice, I think the team then puts Hughes with Damon Severson while Bahl moves to play with Hamilton, as he has done before. I could see the coaching staff getting told feet (and a lot of fans balking at a Bahl-Hamilton top pair in the playoffs) so this could be the least likely move the team makes from this list.

Yegor Sharangovich and Curtis Lazar Over Miles Wood and Nathan Bastian

Let’s face facts, the fourth line inspired little to no confidence on Tuesday and got outplayed the opposing fourth line to boot. Wood took one of the dumbest penalties that anyone on this team has taken all season, and Bastian was just...there. While the trio did not play all that much, there was maybe one shift where they looked like they had a hope of contributing something positive. In a series where you need all four of your lines looking dangerous, having one good shift isn’t going to cut it.

Again, I’m not 100% sure Sharangovich and Lazar do better than the aforementioned pair, but it can’t hurt to try because they couldn’t possibly have a worse game than Wood/Bastian did. Even if Lazar is just “there” at the end of Game 2, it isn’t worse; Sharangovich might go invisible, but at least he won’t take a dumb penalty. And that’s if they struggle like Wood and Bastian did; maybe it’s the shoot first mentality of Sharangovich that gets the Devils going. Maybe Lazar injects the energy that the Devils sorely need right now. While the first suggestion could’ve been least likely, this one might be the most likely to happen, even if it’s just one of the two rotating in.

Akira Schmid Over Vitek Vanecek

Okay, just hear me out on this one. In all likelihood, I do think Vanecek gets the starter’s net again tonight, and rightfully so; he’s the Team’s #1 and played well in three of four regular season outings against Our Hated Rivals. But Vanecek has also had some rough stretches this season where his inconsistency shows, and he could be hitting one of those rough patches. He played well since the Devils’ loss to the Buffalo Sabres on March 24th, so maybe he was due to fall back to Earth. The problem here is that if that is the case, and it’s not just a one game anomaly compounded by defense probelms (which as mentioned above, it VERY well could’ve been) it could not have happened at a worse time.

So why not throw a curveball tonight and start Schmid? I can hear the doubters say he isn’t ready or that Vitek should get another go, and there’s validity there. However, we’re in games now where you need your goalie to bail you out and make a save, and I didn’t see that from Vanecek on Tuesday; Schmid, whenever he’s been called upon this season and for whatever reason has almost always answered the call. I think this switch happening is a toss-up, but we probably see Vanecek again tonight. If he puts up another stinker though, I would expect this change for Game 3.

Shake Up the Players on the Power Play

If this one doesn’t happen, I think some members of the coaching staff need to be changed regardless of the outcome of the series/season. After an 0 for 4 with zero shots showing on Tuesday, things need switching. Someone like Bastian or Lazar (depending upon which one is in) could provide a screen in front of the net, which is sorely needed right now. Moving some of the big names (Hischier, Meier, Bratt, Hughes) to the second power play could better help the balance as well. Additionally, get Ondrej Palat off of the power play immediately; I know this idea of “Playoff Palat” is floating around to the point where it was even mentioned during the broadcast, but he just doesn’t look like a player that the opposition believes is a credible threat on offense right now.

If you take into account the big names from above, and add Mercer, Tatar, whoever is screening on the top unit, and either Sharangovich (preferred if he’s playing) or Boqvist, that’s eight forwards who could slot in above Palat. You might disagree with me here, but again, the power play looked worse than ever on Tuesday; shaking up who’s on the units and where can’t result in much worse.

Your Take

So maybe two of the above suggestions (Luke and Schmid) are a bit controversial, or even a bit of a knee-jerk reaction but I think the others are the kinds of moves that make sense for a team trying not to replicate an embarassing game. Maybe the Devils roll the same squad as Game 1 and play better with the nerves gone, but I think adding Sharangovich and Lazar could bring a different dynamic, while shuffling the power play shouldn’t be controversial or even in question after how poorly it did.

Now I’d like to hear your thoughts on the above suggestions; which one(s) could you see happening for tonight’s Game 2? Do you think the Devils go with the same group as Game 1 and only make changes if they lose again? Do you think it’s worth trying something outside of the expected, such as Luke or Schmid, as early as tonight? Is expecting at least a power play reshuffling asking too much? Leave any and all comments below and thanks as always for reading!